Rachel’s text message arrived between services in Cheyenne where I was serving as a substitute preacher: “Judy Rohr called at 7:30. Ralph Rohr died suddenly this morning!” Then, moments later, she texted: “We are all in shock.”
Death has the ability to shock us. But particularly when death comes unexpectedly to a dear friend. Ralph was a dear friend to many—not only members of Trinity Lutheran, where he served as pastor for twenty-five years, but also the many pastors he trained as internship supervisor, as well as a plethora of other folks who appreciated his gracious friendship.
From the moment Rachel and I arrived in Laramie, Ralph and Judy have shown us kindness and welcome—offering friendship and encouragement in a variety of ways.
Two weeks ago on Good Friday, I was sitting in the Gruver Room reading, when Ralph came in carrying Easter lilies for Easter Sunday. His greeting was the usual—enthusiastic, kind, smiling. He sat down and we had a good visit, swapping pastor and family stories. Lots of laughter. He apologized for missing Maundy Thursday service due to other obligations but was pleased to hear that it went well. “We’ll be here tonight,” he said. And Judy and Ralph were, and for Easter Sunday, too. They were always here for us all.
Ralph was a new friend, but quickly seemed like someone I had known for a long time. That’s the way he was. I grieve his loss and offer my deepest sympathy to those who have known him long and well. His legacy at Trinity Lutheran will not be forgotten.
This past Sunday morning, the morning of Ralph’s death, the Thirtieth Psalm was appointed for the day. How appropriate.
Sing praises to the Lord, O you his faithful ones, and give thanks to his holy name.…Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning…You have turned my mourning into dancing; you have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, so that my soul may praise you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever.
We praise God for the gift of Ralph Rohr. May God comfort all who mourn. And may joy come with the morning.
Don Holmstrom is a pastor of the ELCA, having served most recently at First Lutheran Church in St. Peter, Minnesota. He also writes novels, hymn texts, and musicals for youth. He’s a native of Texas, husband of Rachel Larson, father of Susanna Holmstrom, caretaker of Dooley the dog.